An explosion rocked western Tehran early Friday, state media reported, causing widespread power failures in two residential areas and unnerving Iranians awakened for the third consecutive week by an early-morning blast. The precise location of Friday’s explosion was unclear, but analysts said there were several military and training facilities in the area that could be the target of sabotage. A cause was not immediately determined. “There are two underground facilities, a site associated with chemical weapons research and an unidentified military production site,” said Fabian Hinz, an Iran military expert and research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies.
The top American commander in the Middle East says he sees Iran’s decision-making abilities in “disarray” after a U.S. drone strike killed a senior Iranian commander in January, but he doesn’t expect the lull to last. After a surge in tensions earlier this year following the killing of Quds force commander Qassem Soleimani in Iraq, and additional damage done to the Islamic Republic from the Covid-19 pandemic, Marine General Kenneth McKenzie said he expects the Islamic Republic’s military to regroup and focus on trying to get U.S. troops out of the region. Just not yet.
Iran’s military chief has signed an agreement with Syria’s president to reinforce Syria’s air defense systems as part of a military cooperation agreement, Iranian state TV reported Friday. Gen. Mohammad Hossein Bagheri, chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces, met with Syria President Bashar Assad during his second visit to Syria since 2019. Assad said the agreement signed by both sides is the result of “years of cooperation for confronting terrorism” in Syria. Bagheri said it “will improve the determination of the two nations to confront U.S. pressures.” He didn’t elaborate.
UANI IN THE NEWS
The maximum pressure campaign against Iran is “one of the best things the Trump administration has done,” said former top US Democrat Joe Lieberman in an interview with Al Arabiya English, breaking with the current Democratic leadership’s condemnation of the campaign…“Iran, though less powerful than China, is a greater short-term threat to American security,” said Lieberman, who is chairman of the bipartisan organization United Against Nuclear Iran. “The coming together of China and Iran in an agreement is problematic to our relations with China,” he added.
On April 30, Lebanon’s new Prime Minister Hassan Diab revealed his economic recovery plan and, along with his political allies, touted it as the panacea for Beirut’s financial woes. Since then, his government has been locked in negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), whose assistance—along with other foreign aid—is posited as the necessary precondition for jumpstarting economic recovery in the plan. But the IMF remains skeptical. Its spokesman Gerry Rice has said it is “premature to talk about any… financing right now.” Some of Lebanon’s negotiators with the IMF share that skepticism, two of whom—Henri Chaoul and Alain Bifani—have resigned in protest over Beirut’s obstinate resistance to genuine reform—and rightly so.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Such mystery still surrounds the fire that broke out at an important nuclear facility in Iran on July 2nd. Some of the region’s spooks say the blaze was the result of a cyber-attack. Others insist it was a bomb. Suspicion has fallen on Israel and America, which have a history of sabotaging Iran’s nuclear programme. Other episodes have raised eyebrows in recent months—explosions at power plants and near military sites, a gas leak at a chemical plant. Some of these may also have been the work of saboteurs (see article).
An explosion at the heart of Iran’s nuclear programme in the dead of night. An obscure group called the Cheetahs of the Homeland takes credit for it. Then there are fires and gas leaks at key infrastructure around the country. In recent days, speculation has flourished about what exactly happened at Natanz, an assembly plant for centrifuges used to enrich uranium, and other facilities around Iran. Satellite images of Natanz show a 10-metre crater and destroyed roofing material, according to the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington DC.
Iran’s regime made efforts to secure illicit goods for its nuclear program, adding new urgency to the crisis surrounding Tehran's alleged atomic weapons activity, the domestic intelligence service of the Federal Republic of Germany disclosed in its new report on Thursday. According to the intelligence document reviewed by The Jerusalem Post, “In 2019, the BfV [federal domestic intelligence service] was only able to find occasional indications of Iranian proliferation-related procurement attempts for its nuclear program.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
Lebanon currently has no plan to negotiate with Iran for the import of fuel, energy minister Raymond Ghajar said on Thursday, after the leader of the Tehran-backed Hezbollah group said it was talking to the Lebanese government about the idea. Hezbollah’s Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said on Tuesday a “calm discussion” was underway with the government over the idea of Lebanon buying refined products from Iran in Lebanese pounds, easing the pressure on Beirut’s hard currency reserves.
The sanctioned entities reportedly got around Amazon’s screening process by using common alternative spellings of a sanctioned region like spelling Crimea as Krimea or by shipping items to the foreign missions of the sanctioned nations like Iran. Last year Apple paid around $467,000 to settle similar allegations that it violated U.S. sanctions by doing business with a blacklisted entity for more than two years because the company’s screening tool failed to account for differences in punctuation and letter cases.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Iran's Human Rights Organization (IHR) announced on Thursday, July 9, that authorities have executed a prisoner in Mashhad Central Prison for "drinking alcohol." Citing the prisoner's attorney, the Norway-based IHR confirmed that the man was hanged early Thursday, without giving his name. Some Iranian activities on social media said his name was Morteza Jamali and he had two children. "My client was arrested and convicted of drinking alcohol for the sixth time. Of course, there was also the issue of driving without a license and having alcohol," Hossein Habibi Shahri told IHR.
Amnesty International has urged Iran to reveal the fate of a student activist who disappeared after being arrested twenty-one years ago. In a tweet on Thursday Amnesty's Iran Twitter account said the human rights watchdog will stand by the side of the family of Saeed Zeinali whose family has had no success in locating him since his arrest in July 1999. The 22-year-old computer science student was arrested at home in the presence of his family five days after a student protest was crushed.
U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS & NEGOTIATIONS
Iran on Thursday denied that U.S. forces had seized a boat carrying Iranian weapons to Houthi rebels in Yemen, saying the charge was aimed at extending a U.N. arms embargo on Tehran. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in Washington on Wednesday that U.S. and unidentified allied forces had interdicted a vessel off Yemen’s coast on June 28 that was carrying Iranian arms to the Houthis. “Lying, accusations and spreading hatred are key elements of America’s foreign policy, especially in the current regime,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said, quoted by state television.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
Iran is facing a total intelligence breakdown. With another explosion on Thursday night, reportedly at an Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps facility, the question is not only how anyone has pulled up to seven attacks off in around two weeks, but how has the Islamic Republic repeatedly failed to stop them. From 2010-2013, the regime succeeded in cracking a CIA cell and eliminated many CIA operatives.
IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Iran has seen its coronavirus infections and related deaths continue to rise as the virus spreads across the country. According to Health Ministry Spokesperson Sima Sadat Lari, total infections have exceeded 250,000. In the last 24 hours, there have been over 2,000 new coronavirus infections and 221 deaths, a record number of deaths for a daily period. Two days ago, Iran had reached its previous high number of deaths at 200. Due to the high number of infections across various provinces, Iran has continued to place travel and work restrictions throughout the country.
CHINA & IRAN
Iran is in a bad spot. The Islamic republic’s sanctions-battered currency is trading at an all-time low against the dollar. An outbreak of the novel coronavirus is killing more people each day than it did at its original peak earlier this year. And a series of explosions, suspected to be part of Israeli operations to damage Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, has exposed severe vulnerabilities in the regime’s ability to protect its most sensitive sites. The government of Ukraine, meanwhile, is preparing to sue Iran for damages over the downing of one of its civilian aircrafts in January, in which all 176 people on board were killed by an Iranian missile.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: Iran’s Controversial Former President To Offer To Mediate In Yemen War, Reports Say | The Independent
Iran’s controversial former president is reportedly set to offer to negotiate a peace settlement between warring groups in Yemen, but he may find no takers in either the Arabian Peninsula or his own government. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a one-time firebrand who served as Iran’s president from 2005 to 2013, plans to send letters to United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, the leader of Yemen’s rebel Houthi movement and Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, offering to mediate an end of the conflict, several Iranian news websites cited an informed source close to the former official as saying.
The six explosions Iran experienced in recent weeks may be looked back on as a major inflection point in the nuclear standoff between the ayatollahs and the US, Israel and the Saudis. It will be some time before we get clarity about who did it and how effective the explosions were in slowing Iran’s path to a nuclear bomb or altering its aggressive policy in general. But The Jerusalem Post spoke to a number of former cyber intelligence officials in Israel and the US, with two going extensively on record about how an insider would understand the recent week’s events.